Author: Elizabeth Varin | Published: December 20, 2017
Gabe Brown hasn’t tilled his land near Bismarck, N.D., since 1994.
He hasn’t used synthetic fertilizer since 2007.
Yet he said he’s still seeing yields measuring above Burleigh County averages and he’s still turning a profit profit.
“We’re our worst enemy, not allowing nature to function,” he said last week at the South Dakota Grassland Coalition 2017 Winter Road Show’s stop at the Dakota Event Center.
“…We cannot have ecological integrity without human integrity,” he said. “All of us need to look in the mirror and realize that our management decisions that we make every day on our operation affect thousands of people, really hundreds of thousands of people. Because they’re affecting the mineral cycle, the water cycle, the nutrient cycle.”
Brown argued in favor of looking beyond cash crops and into the ecosystem of the land farmers are using.
“It’s not that I’ve got more nutrients,” he said, comparing his land to tilled land, land with minimal crop diversity and land on which lots of synthetic fertilizer is used. “They have that much in their soils also. It’s just that it’s not available. Because they don’t have the biology and the healthy ecosystem to make those nutrients available.”
Brown spoke about regenerative agriculture, a land management approach that aims to improve soil health, crop resilience and nutrient density.
“You’ve got to think outside the box to make profit in commodity markets,” he said.
The crowd included a mix of farmers and conservationists, said Valeree DeVine, Natural Resources Conservation Service district conservationist.
“What we like to see is that they come and hear a message from another farmer and rancher,” she said. “As an agency we can talk it but we can’t show them what we’ve done on our own operation. So we feel that it means more from another farmer and rancher.”